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Never has it been more apparent that the game is greater than the result than in Melbourne on February 17, 1961. Commerce in this Australian city stood almost still as the smiling cricketers from the West Indies, the vanquished not the victors, were given a send-off the like of which is normally reserved for Royalty and national heroes. Open cars paraded the happy players from the Caribbean among hundreds of thousands of Australians who had been sentimentalised through the media of cricket as it should be played.
Worrell, the handsome West Indies captain, Hall, a bowler big in heart as well as stature, Kanhai, a fleet-footed batsman in the best tradition, and the suave Ramadhin, who had come a long way since he was introduced to cricket at the Canadian Mission School in Trinidad, were among those whom it was said, were moved to tears by the enthusiasm of the farewell.
Four months earlier these same players had arrived almost unsung but vowing, through their captain, that they were going to re-instil some lost adventure into cricket, which for several years had in the main been a dull, lifeless pastime to watch internationally.
The forthright Australian captain, Benaud, supported him. Cynics, and the not so cynical, who had witnessed so much drab play over the last decade or so, thought they had heard it all before. Too much was at stake nationally, they argued, for any lightness of heart to prevail.
Worrell and Benaud and their associates happily proved them wrong. The opening match between the countries produced grand cricket and the first tie in a Test; Australia won the second, West Indies the third and the fourth was drawn.
So the series built up to a magnificent climax at the vast Melbourne stadium. The struggle intensified and support grew and grew. A world record crowd of 90,800 saw play on the Saturday of this vital match, watched in all by 274,404 people who paid £A48,749, the highest receipts for any Australian match.
Over 40,000 were present on a drama-charged final day. A fair percentage of that crowd became allies of the opposition when a debatable decision at the vital moment went against West Indies and, as Australia finally squeezed victory and the rubber by a mere margin of two wickets, the batsmen had the crowd surging towards them as they went through for the winning single -- a bye.
Such was the intensity of the occasion. Summer's glorious pastime had returned as a spectacle of some consequence and faith in the game was restored among the all-important younger fraternity on whom its popularity, and indeed its very existence, depends.
That Worrell and Benaud were the leaders cannot be stressed too much. Upon their insistence on attractive, sensible cricket was laid the foundations of a true demonstration of this great game.
Yet without support their aims would have been meaningless. This came in full measure on both sides, with Kanhai, Sobers, Hunte, Alexander, Hall and Gibbs most successful for the West Indies and O'Neill, Simpson, Grout and Davidson in particular backing up the efforts of Benaud.
To Kanhai goes first mention in that he helped to get the tour off to a good start with a delightful innings of 252 in the fourth first-class match. He had already showed glorious stroke play in scoring a century against an Australian XI in Perth and later in the fourth Test he joined celebrated West Indies cricketers in G. Headley, C.L. Walcott, E. Weekes and G. Sobers by scoring a hundred in each innings. Sobers hit himself out of an indifferent patch with a fine century in just over two hours on the first day of the first Test -- some observers considered it the best hundred they had ever seen -- and he again found his touch at Sydney with 168, the highest Test innings for West Indies in the series.
Only the fourth Test was left drawn but that still contained plenty of drama. With Australia apparently fighting a lost cause, Kline, number eleven, joined MacKay when one hour, fifty minutes remained for play. These two batted through defiantly.
Altogether MacKay stayed three hours for 62 after being missed first ball, and the pair showed that despite the general desire for a definite result neither side intended to throw anything away. Never was it necessary to sacrifice good common sense to please the crowd.
The Test also brought Gibbs, the off-spinner, the first hat-trick recorded against Australia since J.T. Hearne took three wickets with successive balls for England at Leeds in 1899. Gibbs thus made his mark early in his career, for it was only his second Test match.
He had helped considerably towards the West Indies victory in the previous match on his debut and with 19 wickets at an average of 20.78 in three matches he headed the West Indies Test bowling, leaving a very favourable impression.
Impressive, too, was the attitude of Benaud and Davidson during that memorable first Test which ended in a tie. Needing 233 to win, Australia were 92 for six when these two came together and retrieved the situation with a stand of 134.
With half an hour left and only 27 runs wanted, Hall had taken the new ball. West Indies in their turn might have been excused had they tried to close up the game. Instead, they were on their toes more than ever and three men were run out in this dramatic period.
This was also the match in which O'Neill hit Australia's solitary century of the season. Though his innings of 181 was not compiled in his most brilliant style, it contained much of character.
O'Neill also hit centuries for New South Wales in each of their two matches against West Indies, so helping his State to keep their fine record of not being beaten by a touring side since D.R. Jardine's M.C.C. team of 1932-33 defeated them twice in Sydney.
Perhaps even more satisfying for Australia than the showing of O'Neill was the form displayed by Simpson throughout the summer. He hit two centuries on top of six scores of 70 or over in eight appearances against the touring team and individually contributed more than anyone to Australia's final victory by hitting 75 and 92. His 221 not out helped Western Australia to inflict the first defeat of the tour on West Indies, who, apart from the Tests, lost only two other games, those against New South Wales.
Consistency with the bat was also a gratifying feature of the play of Alexander, the West Indies wicket-keeper. Not once in the five Tests did he fail to register at least one score of over 50 and in the third he hit his maiden century in international cricket.
Grout, behind the stumps for Australia, could not approach him for runs but he was equal in his main task, matching all previous records in a rubber by helping in the dismissal of 23 batsmen.
The fire of the tall West Indies fast bowler, Hall, captured the imagination and had the Australians worried at times, but it was Davidson, with his accurate left-arm pace, who gained most honours among the fast bowlers. He took 33 wickets, more than any other bowler on either side, despite the fact that he missed the fourth Test because of injury.
Benaud came next with 23 wickets but it was perhaps his leadership rather than his bowling which brought most commendation on this occasion. Proof that he was determined to play the game the right way until the very end came when he won the toss in the final Test and put West Indies in to bat - a courageous decision at such a vital stage.
So the series simmered until it erupted during those pulsating final overs. The fact that the West Indies took home £30,000 was indicative of the support received, and the institution of the Frank Worrell Cup commemorating the Brisbane tie -- to be played for regularly between West Indies and Australia -- ensured that there would remain something tangible to remind all of the most enjoyable cricket contest for many years.
Matches--Played 22, Won 10, Lost 5, Drawn 5, Tied 2
Test Matches--Played 5, won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 1, Tied 1
First-Class Matches--Played 14, won 4, Lost 5, Drawn 4, Tied 1
Match reports for
Queensland v West Indians at Brisbane, Dec 2-6, 1960
1st Test: Australia v West Indies at Brisbane, Dec 9-14, 1960
2nd Test: Australia v West Indies at Melbourne, Dec 30, 1960 - Jan 3, 1961
3rd Test: Australia v West Indies at Sydney, Jan 13-18, 1961
4th Test: Australia v West Indies at Adelaide, Jan 27-Feb 1, 1961
5th Test: Australia v West Indies at Melbourne, Feb 10-15, 1961